CD REVIEW: Calum Gourlay - Live At The Ridgeway

Calum Gourlay - Live At The Ridgeway
(Two Rivers Records 002. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield.)

Bassist Calum Gourlay must be a busy guy. In between regularly touring with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, running his own quartet focusing on the work of Thelonious Monk, and appearing as a sideman in many other projects, he found time to record the solo concert that forms this release.

The set seems to reflect Gourlay's interests. The first two tracks show the influence of Charlie Haden, who played on the original version of the opener, Ornette Coleman's Ramblin', and wrote the second number, a captivating version of Chairman Mao.

There are two Monk covers, Rhythm-a-Ning and Monk's Mood, as well as an Ellington tune and a version of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now and two originals, What Is This Thing Called Life and Hendrix. The latter is the only track to feature Gourlay's bowing of the strings to an almost drone-like effect, hinting at Jimi Hendrix's use of feedback.

Through it all, Gourlay captures a real blues feeling: this is particularly strong on Ramblin', reflecting Coleman's origins as a blues player, and the pair of Monk tunes. He swings, too, displaying a lovely sense of time throughout the record.

It is fitting that Gourlay closes this set with Ellington's Solitude. It can't be easy standing up in front of an audience, just you and a bass. I've seen other bass players accomplish it with the aid of electronics, but rarely with just the bass, fingers and a bow. It is to his credit to turn a performance like this into such a compelling record.

LINK: Interview with Calum Gourlay from January 2015

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.

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